Before You Go
You’ll need a car to get to the car park at the trailhead as it’s an hour and 20 minutes drive north of Whistler. Along the way, you’ll drive past the lovely Green Lake, the trailhead for Nairn Falls and the town of Pemberton, where you should definitely stop at the Mile One Eating House for some incredible mac and cheese. Pack the usual food, water and an extra layer in case it gets cold. Bring a swimsuit and towel if you’re brave enough to swim in the lakes! This is a great hike for camping if you have the equipment.
Lower Joffre Lake
This moderately difficult but well-marked (and partly brand new) trail is only an 11km round trip and takes between 3-4 hours, with an elevation gain of 500m in 5.5km. The trail actually leads you to three different lakes. The first, Lower Joffre Lake, is just a few minutes from the car park and can get quite busy as a lot of people will stop to see this one without going on the hike to see the others. Don’t make this mistake, each one is more beautiful than the last!
Middle Joffre Lake
As you climb up the brand new section of trail, avoiding a kilometre or two of climbing over giant roots and rocks, you will cross a river that flows to Lower Joffre Lake from Middle Joffre Lake. As you get closer you see the bright blue of the water through the trees and eventually, the path opens up to the whole lake.
It’s unbelievably blue and ridiculously cold, but you should definitely go for a swim. The typical thing to do is to get a photo of yourself and your friends jumping off the log that floats out towards the middle of the lake. The water is so cold it takes your breath away, but once you’ve jumped in a few times it’s actually very refreshing!
Upper Joffre Lake
The climb from the second to third lake gets a lot more difficult but there are plenty of opportunities to rest and take photos. Upper Joffre Lake is bigger than the first two and even brighter in colour. The huge Matier Glacier rises above the lake and the landscape is dotted with spaces for hikers to set up their tent. There is a huge river that crashes down from the glacier if you need to fill up your water bottles, and there is one outhouse. If you’re not camping you can explore the hillside and swim in the bitterly cold water until it’s time to go home.
It’s a great day hike, but as it’s one of the shortest and easiest hikes around Whistler it’s a great option to camp if you have the time and the equipment. All the lakes are so calm at the end of the day or first thing in the morning, it gives you a turquoise mirror image of the surrounding mountains, and it’s always better without the crowds.
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